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Reviewing Kevyn Adams’ rise to the top of the Sabres hockey department

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Kevyn Adams path to lead the Sabres hockey department isn’t a conventional one

New York Islanders v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

If you didn’t hear, Kevyn Adams was named the new general manager of the Buffalo Sabres yesterday after the dismissal of Jason Botterill. Adams will be the fourth general manager in 10 years under the guidance of the Pegulas.

Relieving Botterill of his duties came as a surprise to many. Especially when you consider Kim Pegula told John Wawrow of the Associated Press just three weeks ago that he would remain with the organization. The other surprise that came along with the announcement was the appointment of Adams as his successor. It should be noted that Adams will not carry an interim tag. He’s the man in charge of the hockey department moving forward.

Adams’ Path

Adams was rapidly climbing the ladder at Pegula Sports and Entertainment, but nobody saw the jump to the head of the hockey department coming. While Adams played 11 years in the NHL, he doesn’t have much experience in the front office on the hockey ops side.

After retiring in 2009 he joined 02K Worldwide Management Group, which is an NHL player agency. Shortly after that, he joined the Sabres organization as a player development coach.

Adams took his next step with the team in 2011 when he joined Lindy Ruff’s staff as an assistant coach. He was in that position for two years and then was let go when Ruff was replaced by Ron Rolston in 2013.

After being released from his job on the hockey side, Adams jumped into the business side of the organization with PSE. In October of 2013, he was named Vice President and Director of the Academy of Hockey at the newly built HARBORCENTER. He held that position for a few years until 2019 where he started to rapidly climb the ladder under the Pegulas.

In January of that year, he was promoted to General Manager of HARBORCENTER. Just nine months later he joined the Sabres again as he was appointed Senior VP of Business Administration. “Kevyn has been a valuable member of our leadership team since 2013 and is the perfect person to oversee the Buffalo Sabres’ day-to-day business operations,” Kim Pegula said in a press release about his new role.

Fast forward another nine months and Adams is now the general manager of the club. “This is a dream come true for me, many of you know that I grew up in Western New York, I wore number 11 because I grew up watching Gilbert Perreault,” said the former Stanley Cup champion during his introduction to the media yesterday.

Unconventional Hockey Hire

As you can see in Adams’ resume, he doesn’t have much experience working in an NHL front office. It is rare to see for someone in his role, but he’s exactly what the Pegulas were looking for.

On the 31 Thoughts Podcast last night, Elliotte Friedman discussed how the Sabres owners feel burned by “hockey people” and are looking to put their trust in people outside of that area.

“They feel that ‘hockey people’ have let them down and they are going to go outside of typical hockey people,” said Friedman.

The pieces of the puzzle are now starting to fall into place with the reasons behind Adams’ appointment and why the Pegulas didn’t look anywhere else outside of the organization for a replacement. The ownership group echoed similar sentiments to what Friedman mentioned about the hire yesterday.

“We had Kevyn in mind very recently only because we know him over nine years, he has handled any job we’ve given him admirably, loyal, communicative and we just feel it’s a better place for us to be,” said Terry Pegula.

Tough Start

Adams steps in with a lot on his plate. He has a big offseason ahead of him with some key restricted free agents up for new contracts. Players such as Linus Ullmark, Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, and Brandon Montour. The owners said yesterday that they don’t feel they’re in a rebuild, so Adams will be tasked with putting a winner on the ice right away.

His job got even more difficult when the ownership group purged the hockey department yesterday of its amateur scouting staff, player development coaches, AHL coaching staff, and others in the organization. So, not only is Adams up against it with lack of experience, he now has to get up to speed on the NHL Draft with a skeleton staff remaining.

Adams also needs to rebuild his hockey department under the directive of ownership’s new “lean” message. The good news is he has a few months to get things in order, but he’ll have a hard time getting a scouting staff together since other teams will not be releasing anyone before the draft.

A lot of people you talk to have good things to say about Adams and he has experience around what it takes to win in the NHL. Along with Ralph Krueger, the Sabres appear to be taking a different approach with how their organization will be structured.

I have faith that Adams can be successful in this role, but his owners have made it a challenge for him out of the gate.